Thursday, April 26, 2012

Finding innovation and learnings in Africa and the Kilimanjaro

Some time ago I called someone's bluff and ended up in Africa and on top of the Kilimanjaro. 

I learnt of and started paying attention to the opportunities in Africa. I also realized there is a lot we in Curacao and the Caribbean can learn from Africa, in any case from Tanzania:

1. Impressive eco-lodges in Tanzania. One of them was the 'execution' of the artist's impression of a 140-room hotel and retail development in Curacao I had written a business plan for about a month earlier.  The boulders in the picture below are the wall of the restaurant. 

2. Since I am writing a book on innovations in small states and how to monetize those, I was especially interested in Zanzibar, which is also a small state with a population of less than 1.5 milllion. Like Curacao's capital Willemstad, it's capital is also on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Knowledge workers in small states share the common fact that they have had to found creative solutions because of limited resources. Hence, they have innovated.

3. What a global world! My cousin (an catholic econometrist living in Holland) and our guide Omary (a Tanzanian moslim who had barely finished secondary school), were both 27 years of , fans of Manchester United, Rihanna, some 'Reggaeton artist, who I, of course don't know. Omary also knew the Beach Boy's Kokomo song "Aruba, Jamaica, Bahama... ."
Here Bob Marley's "One Love" greets us when arriving in Zanzibar.

4. In Zanzibar we went to a street festival. Soup and sugar cane juice were served in a regular plastic bowl and glass glass, which you had to return afterwards. Green and sustainable!

4. The Tanzanian guides were excellent. This is our safarai guide Omary, who besides Swahili, speaks English and had learnt himself French. His book was a few handwritten pages of French words and sentences he once learnt.

5. Most of all I am impressed that someone had such good marketing skills to get so many people to want to summit the Kilimanjaro. In our case, we were neither hikers, had never slept in a sleeping bag, let alone a tent, for seven days, out in the middle of nowhere.

I plan to go back to Africa, not as a tourist, but as a volunteer or a consultant. Volunteer, that was the bluff.

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